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Oasis Youth Shelter reaches out to youths in crisis

By Staff | Feb 12, 2015

A Fort Myers shelter is providing homeless and at-risk youth with services and resources to help support families in crisis within the local community.

Funded through Lutheran Services Florida, Oasis Youth Shelter is a 22-bed facility for boys and girls ages 10-17. Kathy Houser, community outreach representative with Lutheran Services of Southwest Florida, explained that the shelter first opened in 1991 with eight beds. The existing facility was built in 1994.

“We saw the need and ran a capital campaign to get money to take care of more children,” she said.

According to Houser, Oasis Youth Shelter provides safe housing, clothing and hot meals for the children, as well as individual and family counseling, tutoring for school work and more.

“Master’s degree social workers work with the kids and kind of assess what their needs are and follow them for up to a year after they leave,” she said.

The children may be referred to the shelter by the Florida Department of Children and Families, may seek it out because it is a Safe Place, or may be part of a homeless family or be on their own.

“They are just kids who have not had easy lives for whatever reasons,” Houser said.

Each child must first undergo an interview and assessment.

“They have kind of a screening,” she said. “We don’t take children who have been in legal trouble.”

Houser described it as a prevention program to support children and families.

“We’re helping a lot of children whose families are experiencing crisis,” she said. “We can place them in the shelter for as long as necessary, and then we try to help stabilize the family.”

The children stay on average between 30 and 45 days.

Currently, all 22 beds are filled at the facility.

“It is usually full,” Houser said.

The shelter has separate wings for the boys and girls, with two to four youth per bedroom.

“We try when we can to segregate them by age,” she said.

There is a common living area with gaming systems and TVs, a courtyard and basketball court.

“We don’t want it to feel institutional,” Houser said.

The children attend school, and outside tutors are brought in to help.

“That’s part of the structure,” she said. “A lot of the kids are behind in their studies.”

Some minor chores are assigned to the youth.

“We have fun activities on the weekend,” Houser said.

For more information on the Oasis Youth Shelter or Lutheran Services Florida, contact Lutheran Services of Southwest Florida at (239) 278-5400 or visit: www.lsfnet.org.

Oasis Youth Shelter is at 3634 Central Ave.